Skyline of Shanghai


Taken from my xanga entry posted on August 5th, 2004. I was 17 years old then.

If it’s not already playing, press play. And then start reading. 


Setup: Every good movie should skillfully balance its situations and resolutions. 

Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” for example, brilliantly captures that balance when two strangers find themselves living in a totally unfamiliar place.



calvin looking in the same direction as scarlett johansson in lost and translation


Play: Coldplay – “The Scientist.”

.Staying in Shanghai felt like a movie.


Downtown Shanghai Skyline of Sports Hotel
The Sports Hotel (tower on the right): Where I lived for 3 months


The 3 Pearls of Shanghai TV Tower
The Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Xujiahui Tower Shopping Center
Xujiahui Tower Shopping Center

Nanjing Lu


There was the unfamiliar place and there were the strangers. However, there was none of that balance . . . it got skewed early on during the trip when more resolutions than situations started happening.

But it still felt like a good movie . . . you know, that ultimate feel-good movie that constantly makes you want to keep watching; ”Lost in Translation” with a healthy dose of positive “drama.”

And there was family . . .


Me and my brother Linus
Me and my brother Linus

Me and my brother Linus

Me with my late 92 year old great grandmother at the time
Me with my late 92 year old great grandmother at the time
From left to right: My cousin, my uncle, my late father, my brother, and me
From left to right: My cousin, my uncle, my late father, my brother, and me

My brother, myself, my great grandmother, my father


As this movie ends and my departure begins for home in beloved Manhattan, I want to thank you, you, and you, and you too, for granting me the opportunity to have a fucking awesome time.


Me and my masseuses
Me and my masseuses

Shanghainese usheresses

Family friends in Shanghai

I blend into Old Shanghai


I’m deciding whether it was the expected reasons for coming here — the personal swim training, learning Chinese, playing better piano . . .

– or the unexpected serendipities – paintball, wushu kung-fu, handing out fliers, hip hop dancing classes, group massages, coaching little kids how to swim, watching sunrises with friends, unexpected dinners with strangers who become future best friends, dinners with amazing company in amazing heights, becoming a teacher’s assistant for a preschool summer class, movie trips, background commentaries, impromptu daytime hangouts, late night internet cafes . . .


I read about orientation events for Columbia at an internet cafe in Shanghai

A toy shop selling very realistic looking guns, with tiny child in corner

My namesake in a place called Soho in downtown Shanghai


. . . and the clubbing 4 days a week every week . . .


Making new friends, juniors in college back in the USA, while in Shanghai

Shanghai nightclub

We party

Drinks out in Shanghai



. . . or the unexpected serendipities . . . yes, those will be what I will define my time in Shanghai, and what I will never forget when I look back on a most interesting 3 months.


Karaoke in Shanghai

Karaoke in Shanghai


And as the end credits roll, I also want to entirely thank all the rest . . . the best all-star cast and crew one could ever ask for in making my more uplifting remake of “Lost in Translation.”


Dinner out


All of you are none short of amazing. I came to Shanghai with blind naiveté and an empty cell phone address book. I came out . . . a little more worldly, having befriended many phenomenal people from both sides of the world. Who could ask for more?


Drinks on the Bund



. . . My flight is only in a few hours. I have more to say, but I’ll save it for the DVD extras. This Coldplay song and the lovely person who gave it to me beckons me home. So as I leave:

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a wrap.




Thank you Shanghai, I’ll see you soon. New York, even sooner.

p.s. Oh, and if there’s anything I can’t forget about Shanghai . . . it’s that all the locals here have a problem whenever I walk down the street smiling for no reason. It was as if I was the happiest person in Shanghai . . . haha, actually, I was.


Having dinner at M on the Bund


But I can’t leave without sharing one final story. . . .


I initially thought of writing this entry early August of 2004. I eventually got around to it December of 2004. I never made it public due to obvious circumstances at the time with certain people.

I guess now I have nothing to hide.

When I was living in China for 2 months, I met a girl from the suburbs, about one year older than me. She was a waitress working at the restaurant in the hotel in which I was living. She worked for dirt low pay and sent most of her money to her family back in AnHui. She would always greet me as I came to the restaurant everyday to have breakfast. We had around one to two harmless conversations about ourselves where we would sit down and chat as I had my morning meals

One night I found her sitting on the steps near the hotel. It was three o’ clock in the morning and she was staring up at the stars. and I joined her. It was just the two of us there, not saying a word. And we sat together, staring upwards, two strangers from different worlds sharing this common ground under the secrets of our night sky. We clicked, but maybe not so much in the romantic sense. More like a quiet acknowledgement of our attachment in a world that was witness to our disparate circumstances.

In my broken Chinese, I tried to relate to her that I was feeling some sort of common understanding that I didn’t know I could find in a stranger brought up so differently from me. But I didn’t even get to finish my explanation when she told me in sparkling Mandarin that she felt the same way. I learned that she had no interest to ever see the U.S., making her able to see beyond her curiosity in me as another American traveler. We stayed there together for who knew how long. Ironically, I felt a kind of intimacy I could only share with a total stranger.

Two days later I left to return to the United States, and she surprised me by showing up at my hotel room at 6AM in the morning. She wanted to send me to the airport. I spent eight weeks in China; to add up the time we spent together, it would be only a mere 4-5 hours.

and she was crying as she hugged me goodbye. I discovered she was due to go back to her home in AnHui within the year and that she had no means of contact given her available means and finances.

We probably won’t ever see each other again. As I walked towards the airline gate, I turned around only to see her look at me one last time and run away. And on the plane, I remember wishing that I could have gotten to know her sooner than that night. But then I realized there’s nothing I could do about it. We shared a moment not captured by cameras or text, making it the ever purer

but two months later on my birthday, she sent me a card. There was no return address


The one who got away



- At time of posting in Shanghai, China, it was 29 °C - Humidity: 85% | Wind Speed: 3km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny


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